Warm and quirky, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a coming-of-age narrative as 17 year-old Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson struggles to come to terms with living in Sacramento, California rather than New York.
As Lady Bird, Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Brooklyn) nails it as the eccentric, generous yet ultimately self-centred teenager determined to get what she wants – even if it pits her against her loving but exasperated mom (a superb Laurie Metcalf – Stop-Loss, Fun With Dick and Jane), a supportive dad (Tracy Letts – The Big Short, August: Orange County) and school friends.
Personal and honest, Lady Bird is a lightweight gem.
The latest from Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker) is a beautifully balanced late 70s nostalgic ensemble piece of likeable people.
As a single mother, the matriarch, a never better Annette Bening (American Beauty, The Kids Are Alright) quite rightly takes centre stage, persuading Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning help raise and guide her 15 year-old son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). Arguably not the most sensible choices as mentors – Gerwig’s feminist influences leave Jamie in fights with school friends over clitoral orgasms and Fanning heads off on a road trip with Jamie in tow.
It’s a film full of contradictions and it does occasionally slip into anecdotal gratification but relative newcomer Zumann is a delight and, possibly for the first time, I personally liked Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America) on screen.
I sometimes wonder if I am the only person on the (film-going) planet who just does not like Greta Gerwig. Her laboured, disingenuous kookiness rings affected and false. Frances Ha did little for me – and now Mistress America can be added to the mix.
Which is a pity as the star of writer/director Noah Baumbach’s latest indie feature is Lola Kirke (Gone Girl, Reaching For the Moon) as the country girl arriving into the social whirl of her future step-sister’s crazed Manhattan lifestyle.
It’s also apparent I prefer Baumbach in a more serious mode – Margot at the Wedding, The Squid & the Whale – to his ‘humour’ of While We’re Young, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou and the Gerwig star-vehicles.